By Latheef Farook
Iraq, a land where many great ancient civilisations such as Mesopotamia, Sumer, Akkad, Babylonian and Assyria flourished between the Tigris and the Euphrates rivers for more than 7,000 years, has been ruthlessly raped and ravaged by the European colonial powers followed by the United States to loot its oil wealth for more than a century.
For example, gaining control over Iraq’s oil wealth had been the focus of United States policy, even before World War I and demanded in the post-war era that its oil companies be allowed to negotiate free with the corrupt Iraqi monarch.
Major oil explorations began in 1927 and huge deposits were found in the Mosul area. The Iraqi Petroleum Company, comprising British Petroleum (then Anglo-Iranian), Shell, Mobil and Exxon (then Standard Oil of New Jersey), enjoyed complete monopoly. They divided the spoils of Iraqi oil among the US, Britain, France and Holland, 23.75 percent each, while the remaining five percent went to oil baron Caloste Gulbenkin who negotiated the deal.
The irony was, the Iraqis, the legitimate owners of the oil, were deprived of their own wealth. The revolts of the Arabs and Kurds protesting against this unjust colonial arrangement were ruthlessly suppressed and in 1925, Britain deploying gas from warplanes for the first time in history, dropped poison gas on the Iraqi Kurdish town of Sulaimaniya.
Despite all these atrocities and conspiracies Iraq, in the aftermath of the Baathist Revolution in 1968 and the early 1970s oil boom ,emerged as an almost developed country with modern infra structure, health, educational and all other facilities and people enjoying a high standard of living.
Then came the 1979 Islamic revolution in Iran alarming US, Europe, Gulf and other Arab states who jointly persuaded assassinated Iraqi President Saddam Hussein to despatch his troops and triggered off the eight year war with Iran.This war killed more than a million people to the benefit of Israel and the arms industries in the West. Some estimated the cost of the war at around 100 billion dollars to both countries.
The war ended in 1988. However the US President George Bush Sr precipitated yet another political crisis by tricking Saddam Hussein to invade Kuwait.Once Iraqi troops entered Kuwait, Bush Sr unleashed a ferocious media campaign followed by one of the most destructive bombing campaigns in known history and pushed Iraq to its pre-historic age. He used cluster bombs to rip bodies apart, napalm and white phosphorous to cling and burn skin and small nuclear bomb type fuel air explosives to cause other damage. The total amount of bombs dropped on Iraq was far more than the bombs dropped by the allies in the entire World War II. The military campaign, financed by the Gulf States led by Saudi Arabia, incinerated around 130,000 Iraqi civilians.
The western weapons industry flourished as they sold a staggering $ 157 billion worth of weapons.
Battered by aerial bombardments and crippled by UN sanctions that killed more than 500,000 children, Iraq was virtually an occupied country. Since 1991 Iraqis were subjected to untold misery, hardships, and more than one-third of the population exposed to malnutrition, epidemics, miscarriages and declining life expectancy.
In the footstep of his father President George Bush Jr who spent his entire two terms in office invading Muslim countries and killing Muslims , invaded Iraq in March 2003 under the false pretext of introducing
democracy and eliminating the non existent weapons of mass destruction . According to US media reports, Bush and his team of neo cons had planned a regime change in Iraq even before assuming office.
The American forces indiscriminately bombed Iraqi cities with unprecedented intensity and within days the war battered people were once again deprived of water, electricity, medicine, food and even shelter. Imagine the terrifying prospect for the ordinary Iraqi citizens who suffered incessant bombardment. Day in and day out the skies over Iraq rained bombs – and the most pernicious ones to boot – which shook the earth and relegated once thriving cities into bloody human abattoirs. Child survivors, many of them maimed for life, remain haunted by the nightmare of the gruesome catastrophe. Screaming in fear and panic, they simply could not comprehend why they were being subjected to such horror and heartlessness.
Caught up in this vicious and prolonged bloodbath they had to face life with a deadly unpredictability .For these are people who have lived in a climate of poverty and stark fear for far too long. They scanned the skies constantly in anticipation for the dreaded shriek of lethal shells whistling overhead and finally bursting around them in a mighty climatic boom.
Then there emerged shocking pictures of American troops’ gang-raping Iraqi women. These hapless women were forcibly dragged out of their homes, screaming in terror, stripped naked and gang-raped by the very people who had ostensibly been there to protect them. Nonetheless, such criminal depravity had been committed by so-called civilised uniformed personnel representing the most powerful military nation on earth.
Among the victims, were ordinary housewives, mothers and daughters – all brought up in a decently conservative society and whose religious traditions have always valued feminine purity as a prerequisite for a happily wedded life? Did the Americans who perpetrated these appalling crimes ever stop to wonder that their victims were the same kind of women as their mothers and sisters at home?
Hundreds of thousands of innocent men and women were arbitrarily arrested and subjected to the most sadistic and savage forms of torture, which brought swift condemnation from all over the world. .
The US forces used the most vicious interrogation techniques including hooding, stripping detainees naked, subjecting them to extremes of heat, cold, noise and light, and depriving them of sleep – in violation of the Geneva Conventions and the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment. This heartless routine that included infliction of pain, discomfort and humiliation has expanded in all too many cases into vicious beatings, sexual degradation, sodomy, electrocution, near drowning, and near asphyxiation. Several detainees had died under questionable circumstances while in incarceration.
Obviously, these bestial crimes were kept under wraps until Pulitzer Prize winning investigative journalist Seymour Hersh published a series of exposé articles illustrated by damning photos of the torture by US military police of prisoners in the Iraqi prison of Abu Ghraib near Baghdad
It all started with a few disturbing pictures of naked prisoners piled on top of each other, others hooded and wired with electrodes. The photographs included images of a hooded prisoner with wires fixed to his body, nude inmates piled in a human pyramid – a lewd type of Karma Sutra circus where the performers were forced into simulating mass sexual techniques. The harrowing pictures also showed a dog savagely attacking a prisoner and other inmates being forced to masturbate or simulate sex with each other.
Bush and Blair accused Taliban and Al Qaeda of terrorism. However, neither Taliban nor Al Qaeda ever stooped and descended to this lowest of low level of American and British troops. Instead, they treated women prisoners with dignity and respect. So much so, British Journalist Yvonne Ridley detained by Taliban embraced Islam after their humane and dignified treatment of her while in their custody.
The destruction of Iraq had been so meticulously planned, embracing every aspect that one of their main aims was to physically eliminate academics, professionals and other intellectuals from the society for generations to come. Around May 2003, there were reports that Israel’s secret service Mossad arrived with a list of names and addresses of professionals such as university lecturers, professors, scientists, doctors, lawyers, engineers and other intellectuals, and went from house to house, killing them in their sleep.
In many cases, they used sharp weapons to cut the throats of husband in the presence of wives who were killed later. American forces looted the museums and robbed very valuable historic artefacts. .They armed Shiites and Sunnis and provoked civil war. According to many latest reports,2,000 doctors, killed, and 5,500 academics and intellectuals assassinated or imprisoned.
Besides massacring innocent civilians, the US troops mercilessly slaughtered Iraqi soldiers who had surrendered, but unfortunately, for the world, no one will know exactly how many Iraqis perished in this carnage as it happened during the 1991 Kuwaiti crisis and in the Bush war against Muslim Afghanistan. They even burnt birth, marriage, death, land, company, industrial and vehicle registration offices and all other such places to create chaos.
In Fallujah, a city of 300,000 people, the American forces dropped even cluster bombs and used phosphorous weapons that caused severe burns in the military’s most intense urban fighting since the days of Vietnam. Within ten days Fallujah has been laid waste, a hell on earth of shattered bodies and destroyed buildings while the city entered history as the place where US imperialism carried out a crime of immense proportions. The head of Turkey’s Parliamentary Human Rights Committee said this genocide surpassed those of Pharaoh, Hitler and Mussolini.
The carnage was very well planned and timed. Bush and his neo con team of war mongers did not want the world to know about their murderous holocaust in Fallujah. So days before commencing the genocide, they bombed and destroyed hospitals and killed their staff, including doctors and nurses, to prevent body counts as details of body counts, during the previous massacre of Fallujah Muslims in April 2003, were disclosed to the world by doctors, nurses and others in the hospitals. Journalists were completely kept out and even clerics were killed.
An eyewitness account stated that US forces used artillery barrages, air strikes with 2,000-pound bombs and air-to-surface missiles together with volleys of tank fire. Homes, apartment buildings and nearly half of the city’s 120 mosques have been destroyed or severely damaged. Human corpses, bloated and rotting, littering the streets where they fell were gnawed at by starving dogs while parents were forced to watch their wounded children die and then bury their bodies in their gardens. They not only shot women and old men in the streets but also shot anyone who tried to retrieve their bodies.
Later reports emerged of the US military using banned napalm, poison gas and other outlawed weapons to kill innocent civilians. Hundreds of “melted” bodies proved that the napalm gas had been used. Residents said “Americans used everything – tanks, artillery, infantry, poisonous gas and other non-conventional weapons to raze Fallujah to the ground. They used these weird bombs that put up smoke like a mushroom cloud. Then small pieces fell from the air with long tails of smoke behind them. Pieces of these bombs exploded into large fires that burnt the skin even when water was thrown on the burns. Phosphorous weapons as well as napalm are known to cause such effects and people suffered so much from these.
There has been nothing like the attack on Fallujah since the Nazi invasion and occupation of much of the European continent—the shelling and bombing of Warsaw in September 1939 and the terror bombing of Rotterdam in May 1940. All the talk about precision bombing in Iraq is dust thrown in the public’s eyes.
Bush dispatched harmless young American soldiers, with their full lives ahead of them, to kill Iraqis and in the process, 4,259 Americans, were killed and around 30,000 young American men, some married with families, returned home maimed, burnt, mentally crippled and destined to suffer for the rest of their lives.
Besides the pain of being physically disabled, the conscience of these young men, burning inside their minds, were also haunted by the ghosts of the innocent Iraqis they killed, tortured, maimed and raped. Haunted by the blood they spilled and all that they did and saw in Iraq – burnt out corpses of innocent Iraqis and their loved ones, screams of the suffering, cries of limbless children, weeping widows and fatherless daughters ,they scream in sleepless nights in different corners of America. While they will have to live with this agony for the rest of their lives, what about the pathetic plight of the mothers, wives and children and other loved ones who need to put up with the agony of these young American men for the rest of their lives?
According to Nobel laureate Joseph Stiglitz and Linda J. Bilmes of Harvard University’s Kennedy School of Government the estimated cost of the Iraq war in 2008 would be more than $ 3 trillion.
Who benefitted? Individuals and companies close to the warmongers including former Vice President Dick Cheney, called “Vice President for Torture”, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and others benefitted.
During this, darkest of dark hour the helpless Iraqis expected their Arab brothers to protect them. Instead, Egypt stood fully behind Bush and Blair while Saudi Arabia supplied the American troops with petrol and airport facilities to bomb the Iraqis.
Six years later today the US and British troops have killed 1,320,110 Iraqi men, women, children and the aged, more than two and half million Iraqis , 20,000 of them doctors, are in refugee camps in neighbouring countries, , four million Iraqis are refugees in their own country while more than half the population suffer from starvation. Iraqi society and infrastructure have been destroyed, drinking water polluted, power supply disrupted while schools, hospitals and other places are all in shambles.
Iraq today is a country of two million widows and five million orphans many of whom are homeless .Almost a third of Iraq’s children suffer from malnutrition. Some 70 per cent of Iraqi girls no longer go to school. Medical services, once the best in the region, have totally collapsed: 75 per cent of medical staff have left their jobs, half of them have fled the country, and after six years of “reconstruction” health services in Iraq still do not meet minimum standards.
Iraq’s infrastructure is in ruins. There is lawlessness everywhere with sectarian thugs and gangs funded by occupation authorities and their puppet regime virtually running the show, driving terror among people already subjected to unbearable sufferings.
Almost daily bomb explosions and killings, concern for safety of life, indiscriminate and arbitrary arrests and killings by the Anglo-American forces, the ever-rising cost of living and spiralling unemployment, the virtually collapsed health, education, water, sewage, and power supply forced many to leave the country. They do not see a ray of hope for a better future and thousands and thousands can no longer earn a living to support their families.
Today the entire Iraqi population remains traumatised and these are the obscene images of crimes that cry out to the Heavens for vengeance.
Where were the champions of the free democratic media, who had prided themselves on protecting and maintaining the freedom of expression? Of course, they were there, and pretty well contained as guests of the invading troops in a shameful trend, which served to topple the very defences, which make a democracy effective and vibrant. Here then was the world’s once proudest freethinking media being turned on its head into a circus act of shameful jingoistic journalism.
None of the prophetic pundits of the Fourth Estate displayed any concern about the legal, political or moral issues of such a murderous military operation. Where again were the profound liberal writers who should have expressed caution that any military operation should have been planned by minimizing the danger to some 200,000 homeless refugees already tottering on the brink of famine.
The often-raised question is: why has the international community, which prosecuted Slobodan Milosevic, and now issued arrest warrant on Sudan’s President Omar al Bashir for war crimes, not brought charges against George W. Bush, Tony Blair, Donald Rumsfeld .Dick Cheney and others for their crimes against humanity in Iraq?
These are the great democracies and their elected leaders who preach human rights and blackmail smaller nations.
This article appeared in the Sunday Observer on 5 April 2009
This article was later reproduced in March 2022.
Disclaimer: US and British led Invasion of Iraq
A Nation remains raped and ravaged - Views expressed by writers in this section are their own and do not necessarily reflect Latheefarook.com point-of-view